Happy Holidays, Merry Mass of Christ and Improbable Heights

‘When you strip everything away from Batman, you are left with someone who doesn’t want to see anyone die.’ — KINGDOM COME by Alex Ross and Mark Waid

When I think of humanity in general, and the holiday season in particular it strikes me that that should be our goal. The pursuit of a world, where nobody dies in vain.

But the reality, particularly in America, this time of year is that with the eyes of the media diverted; government sponsored mass-murders actually ramp up, bombings ramp up (now of the drone and unmanned variety, machines murdering men.. what an unholy road we walk), the terrorism of the rich… ramps up.

I’ll not forget the media celebrating the death of Bin Laden. Death and Murder and Torture are never things to celebrate, no matter the justification.

While I am savage enough to know that killing may be a necessary evil, I am human and moral enough to know it is never a joy, never a victory, never a cause for celebration.

Be the murdered Bin Laden, or Hitler or insert bogieman here, bringing murder to murderers is never anything less than a soiling, and a failure, necessary though it may be, it is a failure of reason. And as such is a solemn time, not a glorious one.

Because to do otherwise, to take joy from death, and celebration from degradation and horror… is to devoid you of moral high-ground, is to make you (in ways stark and true) worse than those you would revile, worse than your Hitlers and Bin-Ladens. It makes you a lynchmob, a coward, and an opportunist of carnage.

We must strive to be better than that, otherwise your protestations of Christianity, and Holy Nights, and piety are just lies, are hypocrisy and mendacity most foul, that you use to conceal your roman desire to see people bleed and suffer and die.

You become that lowest form of life, a gibbering coward among cowards, you become nothing more than a grasping claw, a rolling eye, and a screeching mouth… in the creature we call lynchmob. And there is no lower, and ultimately, more inhuman form of life.

Our goal therefore must be to reject that, to reject the easy lies and the easy hates, and work toward this wildly improbable world where no one dies in vain.

But humanity’s very existence is an improbability, so we can bend that already fanciful existence to either improbable heights of good, or improbable depths of evil. We just have to pick a direction.

‘We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. ‘ — John Fitzgerald Kennedy when imploring men into space

Here, on this holiday season, more fiction than fact, ‘goodwill to all’; look into yourself and find what is hypocrisy, what is lies, and find it in yourself to make truths, and truly believe and act on this idea…. of a time of peace.

Here endeth the lesson.

Artist of the Day: Alex Ross!!

The only reason I started rereading comics or graphic novels or slims, is because of Alex Ross. I had turned my back on the medium, just tired of the juvenile art, the storytelling style, everything. Then Alex Ross exploded onto the scene with the one-two punch of the graphic novels MARVELS then KINGDOM COME.

Self contained, stand alone, complete stories, told with jaw droppingly astonishing painted art. People immediately began calling him the Norman Rockwell of comics, and that term is not quite undeserved.

Like Norman Rockwell, Alex Ross is able to imbue his scenes with a sense of homey Americana, that calls back a yearning to better, simpler days now passed… or perhaps never existed.

But he does more than imbue scenes with nostalgia, he does something Rockwell never did, perhaps never dreamt of doing, Alex Ross imbues his scenes with a sense of awe, of scale, of grandeur.

Of myth.

It has become habit these days for people without a fraction of Ross’ talent or vision to take his work for granted. To call his effort: extremism, and to call his meticulous paints: stiff, over rendering… I see nothing stiff or over-rendered in the work of Alex Ross but people are allowed their opinion, though the criticism always struck me as uninformed opinion.

It always struck me as the voices of jealous ants trying to deride an elephant. People disparaging Alex Ross, simply because he was that good.

Alex Ross is a meticulous perfectionist, who paints worlds that never were, but should be, and populates them with the stuff of faith…rewarded. Long before Hollywood made a habit of making our marvels real, Ross reached out to the lightning, and called down the thunder, and put it on paper, and gave us all a vision… to aspire to.

Many a painter has come on the sequential art scene since Ross’ mainstream debut, and they all bring something wonderful to the mix. But it’s a testament to Alex Ross’ skill, his understanding and his love for the heroic… that none of the numerous painters now in the medium, quite grasp that sense of grandeur that Ross brings to even the least of his creations.

All his creations look out at you with eyes that have seen the worst, yet still seem to say… “endure, be better.”

And end of the day, I figure… that’s not such a bad message for an artist and his art to leave us with. So for all these reasons Alex Ross is our Artist of the Day.

Check out all his work at the links below:

Site for Alex Ross Art and Info!

Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross

Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross

The Dynamite Art of Alex Ross HC

The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes

Absolute Justice

Absolute Kingdom Come

Uncle Sam: Deluxe Edition

Great, Awful and Inexplicable Comic Book Covers of the Day! and The Mouse cries out No Hiding Place!?!

    Great, Awful and Inexplicable Comic Book Covers of the Day!

Let’s start with the great which there aren’t too many of in the last 30 days. In fact there is only one:

Dynamite’s BIONIC MAN. A great Alex Ross cover. Plus while I’m no fan of DYNAMITE ($3.99 is too much to charge for a comic) I think they are getting shafted in this lawsuit. What lawsuit?

Dynamite is being sued for selling John Carter comics. Yeah, yeah I know officially it says ERB, the Burrough’s estate, is suing Dynamite, but the timing begs to differ. This has Disney’s fat fingers all over it. Those books have been out for nearly a year, odd that ERB would only get a hair up their nose once Disney’s movie was hitting theaters.

I don’t believe in coincidence. Not when greed and money are in the air. Smells like a big company leaned over to ERB and said sue em… we got your back. :)

Here’s the thing companies like Disney are trying to gut the concept of public domain. Sure Dynamite didn’t pay the Burroughs Estate to use John Carter. Here’s the thing… they shouldn’t have to. John Carter is public effing domain. The fifty years is ended (now extended to 75, utter bs) that means anyone and everyone should be able to produce John Carter of Mars books or comics or movies.

This doesn’t stop the heirs from producing their version and continuing to leech off their ancestor’s creativity. But neither should it stop Dynamite from producing their version. And may the best version get the readers. That’s free enterprise.

But nooooooo, companies like effing Disney, that owns ABC and everything else under the frigging sun just make up the laws as they go. Whatever happened to monopoly laws?… huh President? huh Congress? huh Supreme Court? Damn sell-outs!

Disney should have been put on the rack and broken into an effing million pieces years ago. But it’s never too late for a good idea. :) .God I hate that company, I’ve hated it since I was a little kid, they are everything that is wrong with this country. Greed First. Uber Alles.

(ohhhh, I remember the first time my parents took me to Disney World and I saw that damn Mouse! All the other blind simpering sheep were cooing over the fat Rat. Not me!! Seven Years old I grabbed a brick and went after him! “Run B*tch! Run!!” You should have seen that rat run—- Ahh, Good times , Good times! :).)

So these companies are using bogus trademark to undermine copyright laws. It’s utter bs, and if allowed to stand it will just rob us of any shared cultural history that we do not have to pay a corporate entity to use or even mention. It is utter garbage. I hope Marvel/Disney chokes on their greed and dies. Goddamn Disney! I’ve always hated that Mouse!… Okay, I’m calm now.

NOT!

Moving on….

    Under the heading awful:

Any comic book that has AVENGERS or X-MEN on the cover. I have never burnt a book in my life, but seeing the glut of AVENGERS and X-MEN titles, I can see the appeal of a bonfire. And no doubt it’s some of my Disney hate still filtering down.

I’m working on it.

Most racist company on the friggin planet… and it makes children’s entertainment. Please, spare me. Anytime people mention Disney to me I want to hurt em.

“But didn’t you like BAMBI?” Hell no! Waste good Venison? What are you… stark raving mad?!!

Okay….

Now I’m calm. :) .

    Under the heading of Inexplicable is the following:

What the heck is going on in this cover? And what ever it is, the person on the cover seems a bit young looking to be in that pose. Maybe it’s just me.

Well that’s all for this installment of GREAT, AWFUL and INEXPLICABLE. Yall come back now ya here?! Except the mouse lovers…. I still got the brick!!! :).

ABSOLUTE JUSTICE HC by Alex Ross, Krueger, Braithwaite: First Impressions Review!

I received THE ABSOLUTE JUSTICE oversized HC book in the mail today. Listed in my posting of 100 Greatest Graphic Novels, my thoughts upon finally viewing it were odd, and perhaps not quite human. I wondered… If in 1000 years either God or Man would make something as fine as this?

Hyperbole to be sure. But hyperbole spawned from a very impressive product.

More to come.

The return of UNDER THE RADAR Vol2 Issue 2! Part 1 of 2!

“Must we start every sup, with who we love and who we don’t?” —Peter O’Toole in the LION IN WINTER


Okay it’s that time again. My recommendation for comic books/graphic novels to preorder now for January 2011 arrival.

If while going though the below list you see any titles that you want to purchase current or backissues of go

here.

But first, what is UNDER THE RADAR?

UNDER THE RADAR was an experiment I started a while ago that I was quite proud of. Basically a very cool PDF I launched out to comic book retailers and fans to highlight titles you would otherwise miss, or get lost in the deluge from bigger publishers flooding the market.

It was fun, and very intensive, and very time consuming, so when time became an issue it fell by the wayside.

But I notice my old UNDER THE RADAR posts get a lot of hits, and even though a lot of people are doing preview podcasts (audio/radio-like programs dedicated to recommending items to preorder), those can be quite time consuming, when what most people are looking for is a quickly viewed list of recommended items they might otherwise miss.

So with that in mind, UNDER THE RADAR is back, but in a FAR simpler format. No PDF, no long diatribes. just a monthly listing of new titles to preorder or be on the lookout for.

Okay without further ado, this is a list of titles you can preorder this month through your local retailer for January 2011 arrival.


Marvel

No letters pages, no back matter, ads breaking up the story.

All these odd decisions from Marvel give no incentive to buy marvel issues monthly. Seemingly, they don’t care enough to give you a something beyond what you would get in the trade paperback, a real sense of a Stan Lee dialog, or sense of a monthly behind the scenes look at the creative process, so generally I say eff em. I’m talking about the publishing policies and policy makers of Marvel, not generally the creators, (as marvel has some great creators, but perhaps in service of not the greatest decision makers) but rather the lackluster way the creations are fed to you.

So even though Marvel floods the market with well over a hundred titles a month, their policies make it very easy to dismiss most of them from purchase consideration. The exceptions for this month?

$4.99 INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #500

Written by MATT FRACTION Art & 50/50 Covers by SALVADOR LARROCA Variant Covers by MARKO DJURDJEVIC, JOE QUESADA & JOHN ROMITA JR. GIANT-SIZED ANNIVERSARY ISSUE! Three generations of Starks face their ultimate foe, seventy-some years in the future while, in the present, Spider-Man joins Iron Man as he tries to fill in the blanks of his missing memory. What if amnesia was a weapon? What if the smartest man in the land had ten nightmares that all came true? Who is the son of Tony Stark? What’s inside of the rings? The future starts now, for the Marvel Universe’s favorite futurist. The Eisner-award-winning series makes a four-hundred-something-issue leap and raises a glass of non-alcoholic champale in salute to Ol’ Shell-head! By Matt Fraction (THOR, UNCANNY X-MEN, CASANOVA) and Salvador Larroca (UNCANNY X-MEN, FANTASTIC FOUR), with special guests Howard X, Y and Z! 104 PGS./Rated A …$4.99

100 pgs for $5. Not great, but I do like what Matt Fraction is doing with this book. Hopefully it isn’t full of reprints to pad out the page count, but figure the odds of that. A lukewarm recommendation.

* Marvel had a couple interesting trades, but their pricing is outrageous. For 4 and 5 issues of content they are trying to charge $20 to $30 for a collected edition, trade, or hc. Which basically boils down to them trying to charge you between $4 and $6 per issue collected. To that I say, hell no. A trade should, with rare eceptions, be no more than $2 per issue collected. So if you are only collecting 4 issues you’re only going to get $8 from me. And if it costs more than that you get nothing from me.

So Marvel trades get nothing from me this month.

*I’m interested in Matt Fraction’s THOR but not interested enough to pay $4 an issue, they can keep it.

$1.95 (save $1.04) THUNDERBOLTS #152
Written by JEFF PARKER Penciled by KEV WALKER Cover by GREG LAND The T-Bolts leap into HULK’s “Scorched Earth”! At the request of Steve Rogers, Luke Cage must take his hardened team to deal with a doomsday scenario unleashed in the pages of HULK! And now that the squad is a man short, Cage finally uses his power to recruit another prisoner to duty–and his pick will shock you! Will the Thunderbolts accept this new member as a part of their force? Or will this heavy duty wild card destroy the balance of power? Find out in the series that Newsarama.com’s Best Shots calls “The Avengers title that not enough people are raving about…it’s one of the best of the bunch.” 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99 (preview artwork is available)

The reason I’m picking up this title is it has potential, it has Luke Cage:Power Man (They need to go back to calling him that), Jeff Parker is a good writer, storyline sounds like a good jumping on point, and the price is $2.99. So to keep me picking it up monthly they’ll need to add letterpages or backmatter, or I’ll be hopping off of it relatively soon.

$2.99 BLACK PANTHER MAN WITHOUT FEAR #514

Written by DAVID LISS Penciled by FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA Cover by SIMONE BIANCHI Luke Cage guest stars as T’Challa’s new adventure in NYC continues! The former King of Wakanda has sworn to protect the mean streets of Hell’s Kitchen, and while battling the mob is one thing, how does he stop a killer targeting innocent people? It’s a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, as T’Challa hunts ruthless new crime lord Vlad the Impaler, while Vlad concocts a desperate and bloody scheme to entrap the mysterious new vigilante that’s ruining his plans. T’Challa learns what it really means to be a man without fear, courtesy of award-winning thriller novelist David Liss and the pulp-tastic art of Francesco Francavilla! 32 PGS./Rated T+ …$2.99

I think without argument Christopher Priest’s take on the Black Panther was the essential take, and Marvel’s use of this character since, has been in the shadow of that great run. And good writers not withstanding, Hudlin and Mayberry, I think it suffers from idiotic editorial decisions. Petty decisions intent, for whatever reason, on dismantling a great character. A female Black Panther? Really? That was someone’s stab at a good idea? Just indicative of the sabotaging type editorial decisions that have plagued this character.

The post-Priest series suffering from gimmics rather than gusto.

However with T’Challa back in the suit, if only in the DAREDEVIL title, I’m hoping this will be a good jumping on point. I’d love to see an entertaining, respectful run with this character. I’m unfamiliar with David Liss, but he has sense enough to toss Luke Cage:Power Man in here, and that means I’m willing to give him the benefit of a doubt, and willing to support, until they prove otherwise.

From Marvels ICON Line

$3.99 CASANOVA GULA #1 (OF 4)

Written by MATT FRACTION Art & Cover by FABIO MOON CASANOVA is back. Or is he? Actually Casanova is gone. Gone from space, gone from time. The burning question WHEN IS CASANOVA QUINN hangs over the entire world as E.M.P.I.R.E. and W.A.S.T.E. alike race toward the horrible, inevitable, answer…The second staggering volume of CASANOVA starts here by the Eisner-laden team of Matt Fraction (THOR, UNCANNY X-MEN, THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN) and Fabio Moon (DAYTRIPPER, SUGARSHOCK) taking over art duties. Never before collected! Never before reprinted! Never before understood! In gorgeous full 4-D psychocolor! Worth a million in prizes! Change your shorts, change your life, change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy! Guaranteed!* *not actually guaranteed 40 PGS./Mature Content …$3.99


No ads breaking up the story, and loads of backmatter, and additional pages. So it’s me getting more bang for my buck, plus it’s Matt Fraction’s CASANOVA.

$14.99 CASANOVA TP LUXURIA VOL 1

Written by MATT FRACTION Penciled by FABIO MOON & GABRIEL BA Cover by GABRIEL BA Meet Casanova Quinn: prodigal son of a law-and-order family hell-bent on keeping the world safe and sound, now blackmailed into betraying his father and the international law enforcement organization he controls. LUXURIA collects the first volume of CASANOVA as its titular star transforms from devil-may-care thrill-seeker into the most dangerous man in the world. What happens when the ultimate player gets played? Find out in this genre-bending sci-spy epic. Gorgeously re-colored and re-lettered by hand, this staggering psychedelic spy-fi epic is collected for the first time as it was meant to be made. By the Eisner award-winning team of Matt Fraction (INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, THOR, UNCANNY X-MEN), Gabriel Ba (UMBRELLA ACADEMY, BPRD: 1947), and Fabio Moon (DAYTRIPPER, SUGARSHOCK). With all-new, all-different, never-before-seen bonus material! Collecting CASANOVA: LUXURIA #1-4112 PGS./Mature …$24.99 152 PGS./Mature …$14.99

And speaking of CASANOVA we also have the CASANOVA trade. At $15 and being a collection of bigger ICON issues, the price point is a doable exception.

$3.50 INCOGNITO BAD INFLUENCES #4

BY ED BRUBAKER AND SEAN PHILIPS WITH COLORS BY VAL STAPLES Zack Overkill has plunged into the super-criminal underworld on a deadly mission that’s made him question everything. Now he’s come face-to-face with his target, and things just got a hell of a lot worse. And so with every issue, our Professor of Pulp Culture, Jess Nevines is back with another great essay on forgotten pulp history, available only in the single issues of INCOGNITO. INCOGNITO, BAD INFLUENCES #4 -32 PGS/Mature Content/Np Ads … $3.50

It’s always good to see the CRIMINAL team of Brubaker and Philips releasing another issue.

Uhh, yeah and that’s all for Marvel.


DC

All the negatives I said for Marvel, goes for DC as well. Which makes it easy to disregard most of the 100 or so books they put out every month. It’s stupid, confusing, greedy, and ultimately just off-putting to have 20 different Bat Titles. You should have just 2. BATMAN, and one 100page anthology called BATMAN FAMILY. Boom, job done. And until they do this it makes it very easy for me to buy none of their titles. Thanks. :).

The exceptions?

$2.99 POWER GIRL #20

Written by JUDD WINICK Art and cover by SAMI BASRI Racing headlong into the adventure and turmoil of GENERATION LOST, Power Girl is hot on the trail of Max Lord – seeking answers and looking for payback. But a trip to Project Cadmus leaves her with a bit more than she can handle, and monstrously outnumbered. On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

The one big difference between Marvel and DC is in terms of art. For the most part Marvel has frigging kick ass artists and cover design, and no doubt this is due to two of the companies driving forces, Quesada and Bendis, being great artists in their own right. DC to be kind, with a few exceptions (such as the great and innovative art of Perez or Quietly), underwhelms. DC’s covers and interiors are typically a bland, uninteresting house style; and in a medium that lives and dies on art, that’s not a good thing.

And when they do get a decent artist, like Simone Bianchi, seemingly the suits are too inane or cheap to keep them, and Marvel ends up offering the artist a better deal.

Which brings us to Sam Basri.

I touched on this in the last UNDER THE RADAR, Sam Basri is one of the few absolutely amazing artists that DC has working for them. His sense of cover design on the POWER GIRL series has been blowing me away. They really are works of art by themselves, and is one of the main reasons I’m picking up this series in individual issues rather than waiting for the trade. He really is one of DCs best artists, and the company really needs to realize this and pay him accordingly, or they’ll find him working for their competition in no time. :) .

$2.99 SPIRIT #10

Written by DAVID HINE Art by MORITAT Cover by LADRONN Roscoe Kalashnikov was sure he could get away with murder – and in a town as corrupt as Central City, maybe he could. But if that’s so, why do his victim’s words still haunt him? She said something about “the spirit of justice” and now, around every corner, Roscoe is seeing a flash of trench coat and the briefest glimpse of a masked man… On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

David Hine on a SPIRIT comic? I’m intrigued. David Hine is a really good writer.

$2.99 THUNDER AGENTS #3

Written by NICK SPENCER Art by CAFU & BIT and HOWARD CHAYKIN Cover by CHRIS SPROUSE The new hit series by Nick Spencer (ACTION COMICS, Morning Glories) and CAFU continues! Think the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents are a messed-up team? Wait until you learn the secrets of the evil organization known as Spider! This issue promises twists, turns and a sequence illustrated by the legendary Howard Chaykin! On sale JANUARY 12 * 32 pg, FC $2.99 US

I’m hearing good things about this Nick Spenser, so this issue may be worth a look.

$2.99 LOONEY TUNES #194

Written by BILL MATHENY Art by DAVID ALVAREZ Cover by SCOTT GROSS Beaky Buzzard is hungry. He thinks he’s found a nice meal in Daffy Duck, but the wacky bird has another suggestion: Bugs Bunny. So just who will be feeding the hungry buzzard family? A hint: It won’t be the ever-cool Bugs! Poor Beaky doesn’t stand a chance… On sale JANUARY 5 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

$2.99 TINY TITANS #36

Written by ART BALTAZAR & FRANCO Art and cover by ART BALTAZAR Titans to the center of the Earth! Terra uses her powers to take the “hot” Titans on the journey of a lifetime. And if Terra is involved, you know Beast Boy isn’t far behind! Don’t forget the sunscreen and the bottled water, and watch out for the Sea Trap of Doom! On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

I’ve started looking for books that I can give to younger readers. The above seem to fit the bill.

$2.99 ACTION COMICS #897

Written by PAUL CORNELL Art by PETE WOODS Cover by DAVID FINCH & BATT The last place Lex Luthor expected his quest for the Black Lantern energy to take him was Arkham Asylum – specifically to the cell of The Joker! What clues about Lex’s quest could The Joker have to offer, and why on Earth would Lex trust him? Get ready for a one-of-a-kind confrontation between comics’ two greatest villains, as brought to you by the twisted minds of Paul Cornell and Pete Woods! On sale JANUARY 26 * 32 pg, FC $2.99 US

$2.99 STEEL #1

Written by STEVE LYONS Art by SEAN CHEN Cover by ALEX GARNER John Henry Irons is a normal human being who managed to overcome all odds and become a hero who Superman considers a peer and colleague. What kind of determination drives a man to reach such heights? Find out here as a battered and bruised Steel defiantly stands as the only thing between Metallo and the destruction of Metropolis! Doctor Who novelist Steve Lyons and artist Sean Chen (ACTION COMICS, SALVATION RUN) deliver a story that shows why Steel is a true DC Universe icon! ONE-SHOT * On sale JANUARY 5 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Great solicitation. Plus I really like the character of Steel.

*I’ve heard good things about Lemire’s SUPERBOY, but I’ve seen the art, and it just doesn’t work for me. May try it later in trade.

$2.99 SUPERGIRL #60

Written by NICK SPENCER Art by BERNARD CHANG Cover by AMY REEDER & RICHARD FRIEND SUPERGIRL welcomes aboard writer Nick Spencer (JIMMY OLSEN, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS, Morning Glories) and artist Bernard Chang (WONDER WOMAN, SUPERMAN) for a Girl of Steel story unlike any other! Someone is trying to kill the young heroes of the DC Universe! Who is this villain, and how can Supergirl stop him? Maybe her friends can help – namely, Batgirl, Blue Beetle, Miss Martian, Static and…Robin?! Buckle up, folks, because this one puts the pedal to the metal on page one and doesn’t let up for a second! On sale JANUARY 19 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Two things are getting me to give this a try, Nick Spenser and Static.

$2.99 HOUSE OF MYSTERY #33

Written by MATTHEW STURGES Art by WERTHER DELL’EDERA and DAVID LLOYD Cover by ESAO ANDREWS Since the Pair of the Conception first chased Fig Keele into the House of Mystery, Fig has never known who they were or what they wanted from her. Now, Fig solves a mystery that’s been lingering since the very beginning. Featuring a tale illustrated by David Lloyd (V FOR VENDETTA)! On sale JANUARY 5 * 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US MATURE READERS

Probably not the best place to jump in, but I’m intrigued, and have been meaning to pick this up.

Wow, I’m actually quite surprised how many DC comics I recommend this month. I guess their price drop has helped their titles to become more attractive, or at least most justifiable of the expense. Well that’s all for this installment. Catch me tomorrow for part 2 of this, and the remaining titles I recommend. Don’t miss it, as that’s where the good stuff is.

Random Rants, Images, Comics, and Movies: JUSTICE, ATOM EGOYAN, FELL

This is some random images of items currently on my overloaded radar. Either films I’ve watched, or books I’ve read, or music listened to:

I’ve just finished the first 2 books in the 3 book series that is JUSTICE. You can find expanded details about what I thought of it by checking out my 100 GREATEST GRAPHIC NOVELS posting, over in the menu to your right. But in brief, I thought it was a very effective collaboration. Particularly the melding of Doug Braithwaite’s inventive layouts with Alex Ross’ sublime paints, creates a final product to be lauded. The dialog, by frequent Ross collaborator Jim Kruegar, particularly at the start of the 2nd volume, doesn’t always ring true, seems at times forced and stilted. But these moments are brief, overall the story is everything it sets out to be, an engaging, if darker version of the Saturday Superhero cartoons that Alex Ross grew up on. All twelve issues deserve to be collected in the publisher’s over-sized Absolute format.

****

While on the comics topic. There is really very little out there that interests me. Two of the best, most interesting comics in a long time GUTSVILLE and FELL look like they are on permanent hiatus. Simon Spurrier is paying the bills over at Marvel Comics, doing Ghost Rider or something. What a waste. I guess it comes back to that Kirkman Brouhaha, of guys spending their careers maintaining the old order, rather than creating the new.

Similarly SPECIAL FORCES and ZEROKILLER are to be delayed.

So with the best comics on hiatus, what does that leave?

Well I’ve been looking around and seriously… not a whole hell of a lot. First and foremost I’m not paying $4 or $3.99 as they like to call it, for a comic book. Hell most people are on the fence, and rightfully so about paying $3 for a comic. So at the $4 price point, it makes more sense to say f**k new comics; and just read back issues. You can pick back issues up for as low as 25cents (there’s enough old comics, that if you tried you couldn’t get through a tenth of em in your lifetime, so who needs new), or do more cost effective collected editions such as offered through Manga, or Trade Paper Backs, or Original Graphic Novels… all available easily through your local bookstore.

Warren Ellis had, and has, the right idea with FELL, a $1.99 book that is 2nd to nothing on the stands. But it does suffer from catch22-I-tis…. not enough people are buying it for Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith to do it regularly, but if they don’t do it regularly the people who are interested in it can’t buy it (and may stop looking for it), and it can’t build momentum and an audience.

See? Catch 22.

With the big two generally releasing diabetes inducing soap opera fare (SECRET this, FINAL that, who gives a good damn) an irony becomes clear. As shown by cinema receipts the mainstream is open to adopt comics, but the comics market has a/ very little of any quality for them to adopt and b/ no mainstream distribution in place. It is an idiotic oversight. At every theater that sold Batman tickets there should have been comic book spinner racks, loaded with comics, strategically placed not too far from the popcorn. :) .They could have moved millions of comics, as opposed to being happy to break 30,000 issues.

I keep hearing how shrewd Marvel Comics is, but like Microsoft they are only shrewd in fleecing their customer base.

Like Microsoft, Marvel would rather burn money in safeguarding what is broken rather than actually giving their customers something that works.

Microsoft once upon a time made an operating system for customers to use. Can you imagine that? It was a bold operating system, nowadays Microsoft makes products with an eye to their limitations, with an eye to what you can not do with it. Those are two very, very, different mentalities and it shows in the quality of the product. One is an adventurous, explorational spirit which put Microsoft on the top, the other is a scared, protectionist, antagonist mindset that threatens to drag them to the bottom.

Marvel Comics has that same mindset. They are protecting the old, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but they are doing it at the expense of the new. And that is a bad thing.

It is, therefore, an age ripe to topple old men and old doddering companies.

It is an age for the new.

New items such as RETURN OF THE SUPER PIMPS! This series published by DIAL C FOR COMICS, is closing in on issue #6 and is the kind of book that is the victim of a poor distribution market. Meaning it should be selling millions, and would be great to sell to kids, but the distribution model is aimed at whispering to the choir rather than shouting to the crowd.

Which is a shame because it is a great comic… and I recommend it. It is that rarest of things in a very cookie cutter market… it’s fun, it’s original, and it’s not Eurocentric. All things I consider very welcome, and very refreshing, and very needed. So bother your retailer for issues and if he can’t help you do a search, find the website of the company and order books direct from them. And just tell them HEROIC TIMES sent you.

Okay enough of that rant. :) .

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What do the above have in common?

They are all films by director Atom Egoyan. The first film I saw by him was the brilliant and devastating THE SWEET HEREAFTER. There aren’t many movies I rate as an A. THE SWEET HEREAFTER just may be an A+. I’ve been going through the rest of Egoyan’s work, and it appears so far that THE SWEET HEREAFTER is clearly his best film. That said his other films have much to recommend them. I’ll do a full breakdown, similar to my earlier overviews of Directors Jess Franco and Tsui Hark (you can find those also in the column to your right); so check back often.